Unleashing the Wisdom Wall

I’ve spent the last couple of days gearing up for the first ever summer version of the PR Pubs which is slated to start on June 29th. At et4online this year I attended a session titled How and Why to Humanize Your Online Class that was lead by Michelle Pacansky-BrockJill Leafstedt, and Kristi O’Niel. I arrived at the conference the day of and thus I wasn’t able to get the full “Humanize” experience, but I did get to see a portion that was led by Kristi, who also happens to be a fellow Pepperdine Wave (Go Waves!), where she walked us through an idea that she and her team has implemented for a chemistry course at CSU Channel Islands. It’s what Michelle has dubbed a “Wisdom Wall” and is a strategy to have students share what they wish they would have known at the beginning of the course with the next set of students.

Here’s an example titled “Words of Wisdom From Survivors of Chem 121”:

Michelle has also written about VoiceThread as a potential asynchronous tool that can be used for online courses.

Given that I was a little under the gun and the semester was winding down, I decided that I would throw up a simple Google Form for students to fill out the second to last week of class with little advice tidbits for future Pubsters.

And to be totally honest, I sort of forgot that I had even done this until after the course had already ended. But its a fascinating perspective to get on your course. The students’ advice ranges from very practical strategies to long, quasi-personal letters about what the PR Pubs experience can become if you are willing to do a some self-examination, give up a little bit of your ego, and come along in the journey.

It also helped me fully realize the emotional investment that goes into a course focused around the creative process. It requires students to acknowledge this place inside of them that they might have been ignoring for sometime. A colleague, John Stewart, and me were recently discussing the euphoric feeling you get when you’ve been tinkering with code for a few hours and you finally discover that single line that makes it function. Or when you can step back from a piece of art and say “It is finished.” Or when you can take what you did and yell at the closest person “Come here!” to show them that piece of furniture that you built, and then you gently nudge them into the recently stained seat so they can be a benefactor of the work that was inherently designed to be shared.

I think the wisdom wall helps students articulate what this little mini life experience we dub a course,whether it reached them personally or not, was like for them, and it gives them an audience that is willing to listen. Below I’ve embedded a few of my favorites but the students will have access to all of them on the PR Pubs wiki. Some student quotes:

On getting started

Start. Just start somewhere. There is a creative element involved in so much of the course, that it is easy to feel stumped before you even begin. Oftentimes I would focus on what my final layout would look like without enjoying the process– I can’t tell you how harmful this was to my design. Through the process, you WILL ultimately shift the screenshot in your head so I recommend you hold a loose visual of what you’re expecting it to look like; this way, you can reenergize yourself and your vision as you go step by step. Your finalized project will be better than expected.

On tinkering

Dear Future PR Pubs Experimenters,

When I came into this class, I didn’t know what to expect. The only photoshop experience I had was one time I put D. Bo’s head on a Batman body. I couldn’t even figure how to create an InDesign document.

But that all changed.

I’m here to tell you that your greatest asset in this class is the time you spend inside the programs. It’s amazing how much you can learn by trial and error with design projects. Trust me, there’s a whole lot of trial and a whole lot of error.

It’s gets better.

I am asking you to tinker, to fiddle, to experiment, to delete and start over. Because, and thank goodness, when you finally get it right, you know it. You know that your design will achieve its objectives. And that feeling is amazing. To know that you have created something out of nothing and that it is good – that is when all of your time invested becomes worth it.

So all in all, put in the time, reap the rewards.

Happy experimenting!

On trying and failing

Try and fail, try and fail, improvise, and try again. As much as you may think you can’t master a project or a program, a little hard work will definitely help you succeed. Good luck, and video tutorials are your friend!

Acknowledging when to cut loose an idea

If an idea isn’t working, it’s okay to abandon that idea and start fresh with something new! Just play around until you find something you like. Designing is a process, you never know where it can take you. So just let ideas flow!

On overcoming yourself

You’re going to be pissed, but let yourself be pissed and cry and stay up all night trying to learn these programs in the beginning. Trust me, coming from someone who can’t even figure out how to do fancy things in a Word document, I learned so incredibly much and have survived the class. Not to mention I’m now comfortable doing work in in-Design. Let yourself get pissed, and struggle. But don’t stop striving to be better and let your creative juices flow. You’ll be proud in the end. Enjoy!

Cover photo is a flickr photo by Diorama Sky shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license